This essay argues that performances by Australian Aboriginal dance theatre companies reflect an artistic capacity to creatively envelop nonhuman animals and the environment, and which envelope spectator perception in reception. It addresses the problem of how performance so often seems human-centric. The analysis explores the possibilities of dispelling the binary separation of human and nonhuman through the language and bodily movement of performance, and within the phenomenological perception of works presenting the unity of human and nonhuman. The essay analyzes performances by Marrugeku and Bangarra and argues that these imaginatively and bodily evoke affect and emotional feeling. These Aboriginal contemporary performances connect to traditional knowledge that the human is inseparable from the nonhuman world. Bangarra's Dark Emu is underpinned by Bruce Pascoe's book, Dark Emu, that rewrites Australian colonial history. The philosophical shift in Western thought from what Val Plumwood calls human "hyper-separation" from the nonhuman environment and atmospheres is analyzed in parallel to the longstanding Aboriginal belief in interdependency within shared environments; the latter is distinguished further by the centrality of performance. Movement and storytelling continue to be vital components of traditional knowledge and how it is communicated. As these performances physicalize the human within the nonhuman world in fluid movement, they illustrate that bodily feeling underpins traditional knowledge, and in turn imply that Western perceptions of separation from the nonhuman are compounded through embodied patterns and feeling.


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pp. 347-363
Launched on MUSE
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